Fans cheer in the ninth inning of the Orioles' 3-2 win over… (Rob Carr, Getty Images )
Unless you suffer from triskaidekaphobia — the irrational fear of the No. 13 — you're probably looking forward to the new year. Most people do, as evidenced by the giant crowds that gather all over the world on New Year's Eve to celebrate its arrival.
That's all well and good, but if you're a sports fan in this particular area, it's not quite that simple. There is a lot to look forward to, especially with the NFL playoffs set to feature both the Ravens and Redskins this weekend, but 2012 is going to be a pretty tough act to follow.
Think about it. For all the Ravens-related angst over the past several weeks and all of the waiting and wondering whether the Orioles are going to make a big move to double-down on their surprising success last season, the past year was a giant sporting oasis in the Mid-Atlantic region.
Both professional baseball franchises reached the playoffs for the first time in almost forever and both pro football teams won their respective division titles. Throw in Michael Phelps becoming the most decorated Olympian in history and exciting finishes in the Preakness and the Grand Prix of Baltimore and it's hard to imagine what — realistically — our sports heroes can do to top all that.
Of course, a Super Bowl would be nice…or a World Series…or a deep NCAA tournament run by Mark Turgeon's up-and-coming Maryland men's basketball team. There are certainly great mountains to climb, but it might be wise to keep to your expectations under control or you might be in for a bit of a letdown.
The Ravens host the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium in a game that could certainly get 2013 off to a very upbeat start. Coach John Harbaugh turned Week 17 into a bye week for a number of his key players in an effort to send them rested and healthy into the postseason, and the oddsmakers have posted the Ravens as a pretty solid favorite (6 1/2 points as of Tuesday).
Down the road, budding superstar Robert Griffin III will lead the Redskins against the sizzling Seattle Seahawks in the second half of a Sunday doubleheader that will — for one day, at least — turn the Mid-Atlantic region into the center of the sports universe.
In other words, we're going to find out in a hurry which way this year is headed. Little more than a month later, the Orioles and Nationals will open spring training and begin the process of trying to build on last year's success.
The Orioles still have not made that big offensive acquisition that would set their fans' hearts aflutter, but there is still time for Dan Duquette to pull off a deal before they break out the bats and balls in Florida. The fans who are bemoaning his lack of activity so far apparently have short memories, since he made his most dynamic moves last winter in January and early February.
If nothing else is forthcoming, it's fair to worry that the Orioles might quickly fall back into the lower reaches of the AL East standings, though they have a number of X-factor players who could pop in 2013 and manager Buck Showalter has proven that he can squeeze the most out of a 40-man roster.
Showalter engineered his second-year magic for the fourth time in his impressive managerial career. Now, it's time to see if Turgeon can produce a dynamic second-year turnaround at Maryland, where the Terrapins have run roughshod over a fairly soft list of non-conference opponents, but have displayed enough versatility and paint presence to generate a lot of anticipation for the start of their ACC schedule on Saturday against Virginia Tech.
Meanwhile, Brenda Frese has the No. 8 Maryland women off to another strong start (10-2, 1-0) as they wade into their conference schedule and appear all but certain to make their ninth appearance in the NCAA tournament in the last 10 years.
Here's what we do know for sure: 2013 is already setting up to be a very interesting year in sports for Baltimore and the rest of the Mid-Atlantic region. Local fans can only hope that the encore is as good as the opening act.
Read more from columnist Peter Schmuck on his blog, "The Schmuck Stops Here" at baltimoresun.com/schmuckblog and listen when he co-hosts "The Week in Review" at noon Fridays on WBAL (1090 AM) and at wbal.com.
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